Occupation of wood warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix nests by Myrmica and Lasius ants

  • M. Maziarz
  • R. K. Broughton
  • G. Hebda
  • T. Wesołowski
Short Communication


Bird nests can provide habitats for various invertebrates, including ectoparasites, scavengers, and predators. Records of ants associating with active bird nests mostly involve the insects searching for food, with some exceptional records of ants raising their broods (eggs, larvae or pupae) within songbird nests in nest-boxes or tree cavities. We present data for a previously undocumented, but apparently regular, occurrence of ants and their broods within the active nests of a songbird, the wood warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix (Bechstein, 1793), which builds domed nests on the ground in European forests. Systematic recording found ants, mostly Myrmica ruginodis Nylander, 1846, in 43% of 80 wood warbler nests in the primary forest of Białowieża National Park (Poland) during the springs of 2016–2017, including ant broods in 30%. Ad hoc records from this site in 2004–2015 found ants in a further 29% of 163 nests, including broods in 20%, indicating a regular association. However, examination of 37 nests from secondary forest in Switzerland and Great Britain founds ants in only 14%, and broods in just 5%. We discuss the potential drivers and mechanisms of the observed association between breeding wood warblers and ants, including the apparent difference in frequency between the primary and secondary forests.


Interspecific interactions Nest-sites Reproduction Ant broods Wood warbler 



We are grateful to Malcolm Burgess, Joan Castello, Tony Davis, Tara Dempsey, Dave Holloway, Jerry Lewis, and Shannon Luepold for providing information on the occurrence of ants in wood warbler nests in Britain and Switzerland. We are also grateful to Marta Cholewa, Monika Czuchra, and Patryk Rowiński for participation in fieldwork, including nest finding and checking, in the Białowieża Forest. We greatly acknowledge help in the identification of ant specimens from Marek Borowiec and Sebastian D. Sałata. We also thank three anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on the manuscript, which helped to improve it. The kind cooperation of the Białowieża National Park administration (Poland) and Forestry Commission (UK) is greatly appreciated. The study was partially funded by Wrocław University (MM, TW) and Opole University (GH). Access to ant specimens is available on request from Marta Maziarz (mart.ann.maz@gmail.com).


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Forest BiologyWrocław UniversityWrocławPoland
  2. 2.Centre for Ecology & HydrologyWallingfordUnited Kingdom
  3. 3.Department of BiosystematicsOpole UniversityOpolePoland

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